The story so far:
The Catholic Church was a monstrosity, at least that’s how Stuart thought of it. Gaudy, big, presumptuous and **** rich!
He slowed as he neared the thing. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d even been in church. His wedding had been at the lake, presided over by a Justice of the Peace. No, he simply couldn’t remember the last time but, he told himself that this would definitely be the last time.
The door was open and Stuart saw his small group of terrorized victims huddled together on their knees at the front just before the altar. The priest, Father Jakowitz was kneeling before them and they seemed to be praying. Stuart snorted his most disgusting snort, “what hypocrisy,” he thought.
He stomped, louder than necessary, forward until he was standing directly behind Serge and Sarah. They’d all heard him approaching and by the time he stopped so had the prayers and the priest was looking up at him. “My son, we’re are so happy that you’ve decided to join us…..”
“I ain’t your son and I’m not happy about being here. In fact, padre, if you’d excuse us I need to talk to these people – alone.”
“There’s no need for….”
“Just leave us. Do it -- now! I don’t like being in here and I’m not staying any longer than necessary. I’m pretty pissed off, priest, so don’t piss me off any more. You’ve got no immunity with me.”
The priest, shaking his head, stood and walked to the back of the altar and through a door to the sacristy. Everyone else, still on their knees had turned to Stuart. “First, get the hell up off of your knees, will ya?”
They all stood, slowly, silently still watching Stuart and waiting for him to continue. As Stuart began yanking off his jacket he said, “This preacher is no demon. Doc was right. You all remember my arms being burned, right?” Stuart had his jacket off and his sleeves rolled up. He held his arm up like he was being arrested so that everyone could see. No burns. No marks.
Sarah moaned and covered her mouth with her hand. Serge pulled her closer to him.
“It was all an illusion. All of it. Somehow, and no, I don’t know how – that bastard has caused us all to see things, to hear things to **** IN OUR PANTS! Sorry. I am so ****’ mad, I can’t see straight. The guy is not a demon! Do you hear me? He’s not some **** all powerful monster that we can’t beat. I went to the cemetery. All the graves? All the **** graves are just like they always were. None are open, none are empty.”
The entire group of six was looking at him as if he’d just stepped off a spaceship. Six, Stuart thought? He looked around, “Where are David and the Doc?” he asked.
David himself answered as he entered the church. “Right here and I am sure glad to see you here, Stu.” Before Stuart could give him an answering greeting, David continued.
“Everyone, I’m afraid I have some more bad news. Doc Hughes was killed a few hours ago, right after leaving the cemetery, in fact. It was a car wreck. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt and, well, he’s dead. There’s no sign of foul play or that this demon had anything to do with it, but he’s dead all the same.”
“And the Doc was right about this Anamelech turkey, too! I just wish he could be here, now. We could sure use his pragmatism,” Stuart said.
Henderson had kept to himself since Stuart’s arrival. He stood off to the side of the group, head down, muttering to himself. Suddenly, he looked up and grabbed Stuart by the shoulders. His breath stank and Stuart pulled back as Henderson got up front and personal.
He shook Stuart with each word, hoarsely whispered from at throat worn out from too many tears, “The graves were closed, you say? So none of it happened? NONE of it happened, right? My Melanie is still alive, then! Right? Isn’t that right, Stuart?”
Stuart slowly pried the man’s hands off his shirt. I can’t tell him the truth, he thought, not yet. If I do he’ll fall completely apart and we are going need every man and woman of us before this is over.
He looked at Henderson intently before saying, “There’s no reason to believe otherwise. I didn’t see her anywhere, so there’s no reason to think she’s not fine, too.” He hated himself, but it was something that had to be done.
Henderson smiled and then he laughed. “Yes, yes, yes, if none of it really happened then Melanie didn’t…didn’t…..she’s fine. Why, I bet she’s at home right this minute wondering where the hell I’m hanging around at! I’ll be seeing you folks later, then. I need to be getting on home.”
He started for the door but Stuart stopped him. “Wait. Henderson, listen to me. I said that it appeared that none of this happened at the cemetery and I didn’t see Melanie but, this preacher is still out there somewhere and he’s dangerous. Demon or not, he’s **** dangerous. Melanie is out of it and that’s how it should stay, don’t you think? But, we need you, Henderson. Together we’re strong.”
He looked at the others trying to convey with his eyes that he needed their support. Sarah jumped to Stuart’s aid, “Come on, Hon. Just stick it out with us until we’re absolutely certain that Melanie’s not in any more danger. Who knows, if you go running home right now, the preacher may decide to follow you and who know what he might do.”
Henderson hesitated. He searched everyone’s eyes and finally, his shoulders drooping back downward in defeat, simply nodded his head. Stuart and Sarah let go of him and Stuart turned his attention to the rest of the group.
Henderson peeked from lowered eyebrows, saw that he was no longer the center of attention, turned and ran as fast as he could down the aisle and out the door of the church. He hit the doors before anyone even realized it.
Stuart started after him, but David called him back, “He wasn’t much good to us, anyway, Stu. Let him go. As soon as he finds Melanie he’ll be right as rain and probably back here eager to help.”
“I don’t think so, David,” Stuart replied, “I didn’t tell Henderson because I thought he would go completely bonkers and I thought we needed everyone to fight this ****. Anyway, I found Melanie at the cemetery. She had in fact killed herself, just like we saw. Someone, the preacher I imagine, had hauled her off into one of the gardener’s huts. That’s where I found her.” He couldn’t bear to tell them all the details.
“Oh, ****. Well, it’s probably a good thing you didn’t tell him, Stu. He’ll spend all night looking for her, but that’s better than he’s been since the cemetery, I reckon. OK…the ball is definitely in your court. What do we do now?”
Stuart looked them over. He saw determination. He saw belief in what he’d told them, but he wanted them to see it all for themselves. “The first thing we do is get the hell out of this…church! Then – I want you all to see the cemetery, as I did. After that….we figure out how to stop this MAN….not a demon, but a MAN. He has some very impressive talents, no doubt, but he’s human, flesh and blood; and that, we can deal with.”